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Title: The role of informal online social support in facilitating long-term weight management : an online longitudinal phenomenological study
Author: Chen, Zemin
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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The term ‘epidemic’ is often used to describe the obesity phenomenon and indicate that overweight or obesity is a worldwide phenomenon. While the prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing, reviews on overweight and obesity studies indicate a clear need for further effectiveness studies of innovative and cost-effective strategies to improve the long-term outcomes of weight loss and weight maintenance programmes in large populations. Current weight loss interventions, while successful in the short term, are often not cost effective enough to deliver on a large scale because they are labour and time intensive. Most importantly, they do not cover large populations. Despite some individual successful weight loss in these interventions programmes, individuals still need to self- manage their weight following intervention. It is unrealistic to expect health professionals and clinicians to provide timely and long-term ongoing support for 2.1 billions overweight and obesity populations around the world (OECD Health Statics, 2014).Therefore, the solutions for weight control may be more effective if grounded within the online community, that is, design long-term solutions that build and draw on social capital to support weight maintenance and are scaled to cope with large populations. Understanding the individual weight loss experiences through informal online social support and utilising the advantages of computer-mediated communication (CMC) can be a timely and cost-effective way to help people self-manage their weight. A three-month online longitudinal phenomenological interview of 17 informants recruited from an online community forum was applied to explore the weight loss experiences with assistance of informal online social support. Four weight loss threads selected by the informants during their weight loss process were also interpreted to map out the key roles of informal online social support and the interaction process that takes place in an online community forum. This research describes the lived experiences of individuals’ self-help weight loss process and maps out the critical moments and differential experiences involved in the Stages of Change (SoC) to explain the individual differences during different weight loss stages. This research also identifies the interrelationships of Processes of Change (PoC) for facilitating behaviour change. The findings of this research contribute to demonstrate the interaction process between community members and the process of providing and receiving social support at different individual members’ weight loss stages, which helped them to continue to lose weight or maintain their weight. The informal online social support could meet different self-help weight loss individual’s needs during different weight loss stages, which is difficult to be provided by the healthcare providers. The findings also contribute to social marketing as a way of offering a cost-effective and efficient way to assist the self-help individual to self- manage their weight in the long term. It may also be a viable way of addressing the issues of costs and labour intensity found in the current weight loss interventions that want to serve large populations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Informal online social support, Transtheoretical Model, TTM, Stages of Change, Processes of Change ; weight loss, weight management, overweight, obesity, online longitudinal phenomenological study